Celtic lifted by Nakamura's delightful debut

Celtic 2 Dundee United 0
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The Independent Football

Japan's version of David Beckham showed there is much more to him than pop star looks, prompting his manager Gordon Strachan to say: "I have seen a few debuts in my time and that was one of the best - they love heroes here and we've got a new one."

However, it was Celtic's own rising son, Craig Beattie, who sealed the occasion. The young striker scored for the third game in a row, coming off the bench to secure Strachan's first win in the Scottish Premier League.

Celtic's midweek exit from the Champions' League - after almost producing a five-goal turnaround in a remarkable tie against Artmedia Bratislava - underlined the club's need for alternative revenue streams. Step forward Nakamura.

The glamour boy of Japanese football was acquired for £2.7 million to add some extra craft but there is little doubt of his added value regarding the merchandising goldmine waiting in his homeland. Nakamura's previous employers, Reggina, sold 25,000 replica shirts in his first season in Italy.

Japanese camera crews have followed him since he arrived in Glasgow and 30 of his compatriots were in the press box yesterday. Nakamura almost served them a dream start, conjuring up a diving header in the opening minute that was cleared off the line by Stuart Duff.

Every deft touch or feint was greeted with an "ooh" of appreciation from the crowd. Nakamura carved United open with a sublime pass that released Maciej Zurawski but the striker, with just Derek Stillie to beat, drilled his shot against the keeper's legs.

Neil Lennon, Celtic's feisty captain, almost delivered the breakthrough after 36 minutes when he seized on a clearance from Alan Thompson's corner, clipping a volley that Stillie held on to. A minute later, John Hartson struck. The striker reached Mo Camara's pass ahead of David McCracken and outmuscled the defender before stroking an angled finish beyond Stillie.

Hartson could easily have had a hat-trick but he was denied twice in a minute as headers from Thompson's corner and Paul Telfer's cross hit the underside of the bar.

One delicious dummy from Nakamura, in the 65th minute, drew a foul that allowed him to bend a free-kick that was heading into the top corner until Stillie pawed it away.

However, only Steve Crawford's wretched finish prevented parity being restored for United.

Shaun Maloney then came off the bench to torture United, coming close on three occasions. His skill and vision was rewarded in the final minutes as he skipped past Mark Wilson and lofted a pass over the defence which Beattie thrashed into the roof of the net on the volley.

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